Army officials last week said their new package of technologies to deliver a more secure, mobile tactical network will not remain fixed, with the service looking to consistently incorporate new capabilities to meet requirements for sharing “secure but unclassified” data on the battlefield.
Soldiers participating in this month’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) exercise will have the opportunity to test new solutions for the Army’s Integrated Tactical Network (ITN) construct, including two-channel radios and tethered drones, with the goal of providing feedback to inform the iterative technology process.
“The ITN is going to be iterative, because as technology changes we’re going to to keep injecting new technologies as we move forward here in informing requirements,” Lt. Col. Brandon Baer, product manager for tactical radios, told reporters.
Baer said focus remains on taking user feedback, assessing industry developments in waveforms and bandwidth, and procuring new software and interoperable capabilities to ensure units can share information on the battlefield.
The Army brought both of its new two-channel handheld radios, built by Harris [HRS] and France’s Thales, to NIE, as well as a new tethered drone capable of traveling up to 400 feet to provide increase line of sight to troops on the ground and decreasing dependence on SATCOM.
“Part of what we learned as we experiment with the ITN, and getting user feedback, is that there are some capabilities here that we chose to add. So on some level, these radios already provide some capability that wasn’t necessary part of my baseline requirement. It does what we need, but there is also some room to grow,” Lt. Col. Mike Baker, product manager for handheld and manpack radios, said.
Baker oversees the Army’s leader radio program which will deliver the service’s new two-channel radios to transmit secure but unclassified data over both voice and video through a single device.
“A lot of it is a new way of looking at things. And it’s the Network Cross Functional Team saying that devops is the method that we’re going to use, and that has a huge impact. I believe that [Program Executive Office – Command Control Communications Tactical] has probably gotten more user feedback in the last couple years on our stuff than ever before that,” Baker told reporters.
The new radios are software-defined allowing Army officials to plug in new capabilities to reach waveforms more easily than before, according to Baker, who said the flexibility also allows for the possibility of working toward a potential four-channel radio in the future.
An initial requirements document is currently being worked between the Network CFT and TRADOC and is expected to be finalized within the next two months.